Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a shoulder injury in the wild-card round. And he then made it sound a lot worse than a sprain of the AC joint, voluntarily disclosing that he also had torn ligaments in the shoulder.
The spontaneous admission during a radio interview with 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh seemed fishy to many, and the Broncos didn’t buy it.
“Well, we knew he was gonna play and we knew he was gonna come out healthy,” linebacker Brandon Marshall told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “Definitely when he threw the first pass of the game, he threw a deep ball. All that stuff he was saying in the media about torn ligaments and all that other stuff, but he came out and took a shot deep and we were like, ‘Oh, okay. They tried to hit us with the okie doke because of the, oh, he’s hurt, he’s this, you know. But we prepared like he was gonna come out and play well, which he did.”
It’s actually odd that the Steelers went deep right away. To make the “okie doke” work, they should have gone with a few short passes and running plays early, making the Broncos think Roethlisberger really couldn’t uncork it. With the Broncos already thinking that Roethlisberger was deliberately embellishing the injury and expecting him to be able to make all the throws, the Steelers dialed up the deep ball at a time when the Broncos were far more likely to expect it.
As noted by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers were “quietly upset” that players like Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib suggested after Sunday’s game that Roethlisberger was faking the injury. But it’s not that anyone thinks he wasn’t injured; the suspicion arose after Roethlisberger tried to make the injury seem worse than it was, which in turn was aimed at creating the impression he would be more limited than he actually was.
Still, even without receiver Antonio Brown, a banged-up Roethlisberger and the Steelers nearly had enough to win. If the team can avoid major injuries in 2016, they will be a threat to make a run at their seventh Super Bowl title — and a third ring would nail down a spot in Canton for Roethlisberger, his busted shoulder, and any other injuries he has exaggerated or embellished, dating all the way back to his rookie season, when he claimed after a loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game that he played with broken toes and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher didn’t hesitate to publicly say the toes weren’t broken.
Which is another way of saying, a dozen years ago, that Ben was faking it.